Last week, India signed a deal with a Russian organisation to help train the astronauts for its major Gaganyaan mission.
In this mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation aims to send three astronauts in a spacecraft into low-Earth orbit, keep them there for seven days before bringing them back home.
The US and France had also offered training support, but ISRO eventually picked Russia’s Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of the state-run Roscosmos State Corporation. Apart from helping with training, Glavkosmos will also provide support in conducting medical examinations and with the selection procedure.
Natalia Lokteva, the deputy director general of Glavkosmos, and S. Unnikrishnan Nair, director of the ISRO Indian Human Spaceflight Programme, signed the contract on June 27.
In an official statement, Glavkosmos identified the management of “complex international projects” as one of the company’s missions. “In the 30-year history of the company, over 120 international contracts have been successfully fulfilled.”
Glavkosmos will train Indian astronauts with the assistance of the UA Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Centre and the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
ISRO has worked with Russia in the past well – an association that K. Sivan, the chairman of ISRO, has said made it easier to decide. Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to travel to space, had done so onboard the Russian Soyuz T-11 mission. Sharma is now part of the National Advisory Council that advises ISRO on Gaganyaan. He expressed his support for the decision to work with Russia to the Times of India.
— ISRO (@isro) June 8, 2019
India’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine (then known as the Institute of Aviation Medicine) has also been providing medical support to the Indo-Soviet Manned Space Flight programme since 1982. Then of course there is the cryogenic engines saga.
More recently, Russia had originally teamed up with ISRO to provide the lunar lander for the latter’s Chandrayaan 2 mission before pulling out in 2013.
In September 2018, ISRO inked an agreement with France to form an Indo-French working group for Gaganyaan. Jean Yves Le Gall, president of the Centro Nacional de Estudios Espaciales, the French space agency, and Sivan had signed a contract for France to share its experience in transporting space crew, space medicine and navigation, BusinessLine had reported.
According to a report published at the time, Gall said that France was keen to partner with ISRO on training astronauts as well.
Gaganyaan is expected to cost India Rs 10,000 crore and is the largest programme undertaken by its national spaceflight programme till date. If it succeeds, it will make India the fourth country to send a human to space. The deadline is 2022.